Where’s the line between healthy eating and indulging?

​Historically, eating healthily and treating oneself have largely been viewed as mutually exclusive, with self-indulgent foods thought of in terms of takeaways and fatty, sugary or spicy foods and healthy food often perceived to be bland and boring. Can a balance be struck between these extremes? We explore this fascinating theme with Anu Rehtijärvi, Business Intelligence Manager at Metsä Board.


Changing attitudes

While the desire to enjoy the experience of eating appetising food hasn’t diminished, modern consumers are increasingly interested in health and sustainability, meaning they want to know more about where their food comes from and how it will affect their bodies. “In the past, the general public would commonly think that self-indulgent food meant something that tastes too good to be healthy. Healthy food, on the other hand, was considered more likely to fall into the category of raw, unprocessed vegetables or tasteless diet versions of regular food,” says Anu. 

“These days though, the two concepts don’t need to rule each other out, and there is plenty of crossover – food can look indulgent but still be healthy.” In the information age, it’s becoming easier to find healthy eating options that also taste delicious, and consumers also have more choice than ever before. “The question of healthy food and indulgence is also very much a personal one – one person’s idea of a tasty meal might be distinctly unpleasant to another, and they may disagree over whether it’s healthy too. We’re all different, and while for example raw food might be really healthy for one person, others may find that their bodies respond better to cooked food,” Anu explains. 

Eating healthily is about more than just the food

If we take a more holistic approach to our health, we find that mental well-being is as important as physical. Eating is a sensory experience and enhancing our enjoyment of life by indulging ourselves from time to time, even with foods that are not necessarily the best nutritionally, can have a positive effect on our state of mind. “Eating is an emotional experience, which is why food plays such a vital role in celebrations like holidays, weddings and parties,” adds Anu. “People are more emotionally connected to food than they were in the past, and that extends to their purchasing decisions in terms of how it will affect our environment, how and by whom it is grown and packaged, and other ethical considerations. This is reflected in an increasing demand for organic, fair trade, local, seasonal and craft food products, for instance”. 

Good packaging serves multiple purposes

Food packaging is a central part of the selection, preparation and eating experience, and aspects such as visual design, serving suggestions and important information about nutrition, allergens and use-by dates can help us to make eating an indulgent experience while also keeping an eye on how it will affect us health-wise. In addition to providing enough space for all this information and being more ecological, paperboard packaging fulfils the essential functional role of protecting the food and maintaining hygiene, especially with current concerns relating to infection control. The large print surface also allows brands to project quality, which is important at present with people seeking safety and familiarity.

“Packaging can reinforce trust in a brand and its products, which is really important at the moment, and many people are now buying more pre-packaged foods as they feel safer,” Anu highlights, adding that convenience is also a factor: “Although people are moving towards healthier eating options, there are still times when we need something quick, easy and enjoyable – in these situations, the packaging also needs to be part of that convenience.” 


Anu Rehtijärvi,
Business Intelligence Manager

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